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Ella HughesBBC Three

Ella Hughes: 'I quit my law degree to become a porn star'

I’m 22 and have been working in porn for three years.

I always thought I’d be a lawyer, but when I was in my first year of studying law at university, things changed. I was working so hard - in lectures from 9am to 7pm every day - that I couldn’t find a way to earn money. I didn’t really need the money – I had a student loan – but I hate depending on people and always wanted my own money.

When a friend told me about cash-in-hand modelling for amateur photographers to help their portfolios, I jumped at the chance. The modelling was initially all clothed, but then I did some lingerie shoots for lads’ mags, which led to me being approached by porn companies asking if I’d consider working for them. I thought about it for three or four months, and, the more I looked at the work, the more I wanted to do it. It looked so easy.

I had some reservations, because I knew it would be hard to pursue a career as a lawyer if I went into porn, but I’ve always been quite sexually open. I used to go to S&M parties, and I love sex, so in the end, I decided to just try it.

I thought no one would ever see my video and it would be fine. But actually, my first video had four million views.

Ella HughesBBC Three

It didn’t bother me that so many people had seen me having sex, because I’m used to that from the sex parties I’ve been to.

Ella Hughes

I loved the whole process of shooting the video. It didn’t bother me that so many people had seen me having sex, because I’m used to that from the sex parties I’ve been to. The sex only lasted 20 minutes, and it was so easy. The more I did it, the more I fell in love with it. I started doing around 15 scenes each month.

I did it for a year alongside my degree, but I was really struggling to balance it all, and my university professors eventually found out. They told me law and porn don’t mix – that law is a degree for respectable people and I might not be seen that way with my profile online as a porn star. I had to decide whether I wanted to stay or not.

I chose porn.

It wasn’t an easy decision. I weighed up how much money I could earn per month from porn, and how much with law. Depending on your profile, you can earn between £500 to £1,000 for a shoot – and up to £2,000 in America. I realised that by the time I finished my bar exams, I could have bought myself a house and car from doing porn.

I know lawyers can eventually earn six figures a year, but it’s also really hard to pass the bar and there’s no guarantee you’ll find a job after university, so I decided that finishing my degree wasn’t for me.

Ella HughesBBC Three

When I first started, a group of boys told me how they wanted to kill me. They sent me photos of the knife and of bin bags.

Ella Hughes

I’m working on my own website now, and I have more than 90,000 followers on Twitter and a similar number on Instagram. I’m slowly buying a flat in East London through shared ownership, but in January, I want to go out to America. I don’t have anything set up yet but I want to try and build up my profile. It’s something I talk about in BBC Three's new series of short documentaries, Sex Map of Britain.

Porn does have its downsides. We get checked for STIs every fortnight, but we don’t use condoms on set so there’s a real risk of catching something. I do also get trolled a lot online. There’s a lot of harassment and I get called a dirty slut on a daily basis.

When I first started, a group of boys told me how they wanted to kill me. They sent me photos of the knife and of bin bags. It was scary and I had to get the police involved, but I now have a really thick skin.

I also currently have a legal case going on against a stalker. He’s been doing it for three years, and though I can’t really go into details, it has put a dampener on things. It’s been really frustrating and tiring, especially when my family were targeted.

Even so, I can’t imagine myself ever going back to my law degree. I think my life would have been really boring if I’d become a lawyer. Instead I’ve travelled the world and I’ve met so many unique people I never would have met outside the industry.

And I’ve never done anything I’m not happy with. One director wanted a man to slap me during sex, but I refused and threatened to walk off set. Not all girls might feel comfortable doing that, but I know my limits and I won’t cross them.

Ella HughesBBC Three

My family found out about my career when someone on the internet messaged my grandmother. "Do you know you have a porn star in the family?" It was from someone I don’t know, and I hated that they’d done that because I was waiting to tell them myself.

Luckily, they were all so supportive. My mum, who has a beauty business, said, "I wish you’d told us instead, but we won’t disown you. So long as you’re safe and happy that’s all that matters."

To be honest, I’ve never had that many friends. I’m always on my own and I’m probably quite socially odd.

Ella Hughes

My step-dad, who works in agriculture, felt the same way. I think my real dad does too, though we’ve never discussed it. I think we just find it too awkward to mention.

To be honest, I’ve never had that many friends. I’m always on my own and I’m probably quite socially odd. I don’t like going out or drinking, and find people my own age immature.

Some Facebook friends messaged me when they found out about my new career, but they were mainly curious. Some of the boys told me how amazing I look, while a couple of the girls just asked: "Is it true you do porn now?" No one has ever said anything awful to my face.

Ella HughesBBC Three

It’s tough when people stare at you in the street. I never know if it’s because they recognize me or because I have something on my face. But you’re always going to get haters, and the community I’ve become part of is priceless to me.

I also don’t agree with a lot of the stigma around porn. I’m a feminist and I think porn has helped my sexuality thrive. I don’t find it demeaning it all – I’m using it to own advantage to get through life.

I don’t think I’ll ever move out of the industry – and I don’t believe I have a shelf life. There are women doing amazingly as GILFs, and though I doubt I’ll do that, I want to keep going til I’m financially stable. I’m hoping that when I get my website set up, I’ll keep earning revenue from it after I quit.

Honestly? I just can’t imagine a life without porn anymore.

As told to Radhika Sanghani